The late fifteenth century proved to be a tumultuous period in India’s history. The Delhi Sultanate had recently pushed into South India and, while the remaining Hindu kingdoms warred with each other, the newly-arrived Portuguese sought a permanent colony on the Malabar Coast. In the midst of this churning, age-old attitudes about caste were called into question, while new forms of spirituality challenged the ancient orthodoxies.
SADHU recalls the journey of Vishwa-rupa, a spiritual seeker born in 1484, in the village of Navadwipa on the banks of the Ganges River in Bengal. Little is known about this mysterious sadhu, except that he furtively left home as a young boy to travel throughout South India, exploring various spiritual paths and places of pilgrimage.
In SADHU, Vishwa-rupa travels to Puri, a temple-town five hundred miles south of Navadwip, joins a group of forest-dwelling yogis, becomes entangled in the intrigues and a battle between two South Indian kingdoms, studies in a monastery in Karnataka, and is almost captured by mercenaries in the employ of the Sultan. When enslaved by a Portuguese galleon near Goa, he loses his caste. With the help of African warrior-slaves, he escapes, but distraughtly wanders about until introduced to the historical saint Tukaram, and the new, democratic brand of spirituality he teaches.
At the heart of Vishwa-rupa’s travels is the search for his eternal spiritual self, and the evolving relationships with his mother Saci and younger brother Nimai. As he grows from the frightened young child who left home at the age of twelve to a grown man at the conclusion of his travels, Vishwa-rupa matures in the understanding of his connection with his family, and arrives at a shocking, unexpected, realization of his true spiritual identity.